As the NHL season attempts to reach the halfway point, NHL trade bait lists are popping up everywhere.
There are quite a few exciting names still lurking on the 2022 UFA board, including several quality centers and wingers capable of scoring roles and defenseman capable of that and providing a solid two-way presence. There’s also a potential prize ticket RFA. Both typically command exorbitant prices on the NHL trade market but could NHL teams like the Boston Bruins, who according to numerous sources, continue to hunt for all of the above, find a bargain this season because there will be several on the free-agent market?
Right now, most NHL picks have the Bruins at 20-1 favorites to win the 2022 Stanley Cup. Would any of these potential UFA’s and one RFA on the NHL Trade Market make sense and help them win more Cup for the remaining 2011 Stanley Cup core of Brad Marchand and captain Patrice Bergeron?
Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
Can you say a full circle or maybe déjà vu?
Yes, you read that right! The hot dog king of the NHL could and in the eyes of this puck scribe, should be a potential NHL trade target for the Boston Bruins. Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong is apparently begging teams to acquire the 34-year-old Kessel for draft picks as he continues to stockpile picks for the 2022 and 2023 NHL Entry Drafts. In fact, according to numerous sources, Armstrong would even eat part of what remains of the final $8 million cap hit from Kessel’s contract. If the Bruins can somehow grant Jake DeBrusk’s trade request, despite all he continues to do to decrease his trade value, could Kessel replace him in the middle six forward group and become that scoring threat they so desperately need there?
Kessel has five goals and 12 assists in 25 games and is a minus 7, which isn’t bad on arguably one of the worst NHL teams in recent memory. The 34-year-old had 20 goals in 56 games last season and has reached the 20-goal plateau in 11 of the 12 seasons since 2009 when the Bruins dealt him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2010 first-round pick (which the Bruins used to select Tyler Seguin), a 2011 first-rounder (with which they took Dougie Hamilton), and a 2010 second-round selection. He cracked 30 goals five times during that span.
Imagine the irony of the Bruins acquiring Kessel, whom they drafted during the 2006 NHL Entry Draft weekend, and re-signing goalie Tuukka Rask, whom they acquired from the Leafs at that same draft?
Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins
The former 27-goal scorer netted over 20 for a second consecutive season last year. This year though has been a nightmare for the former Notre Dame star with a pair of lower-body injuries limiting him to just 12 games. The gritty top-line, 29-year-old winger has essentially worked his way up from the mailroom to the top floor corner office. He was a light-scoring fourth-liner for the Penguins Stanley Cup runs (but had a statistical anomaly of scoring series-clinching goals).
Rust’s four-year, $14 million contract expires in July, and the two sides have not found common ground. A 20-goal scorer with Rust’s all-around game and speed could ask for six years, $36 million, but could be valuable as a rental.
The Penguins need to clear cap space to have a full 23-player roster when Evgeni Malkin returns, perhaps in January. Rust should be back by then, too.
A rental of Rust’s quality can easily fetch a second-round pick, most likely multiple picks, or a first-rounder.
Mark Giordano, Seattle Kraken
Giordano, 38, is a leader, a top-pairing defenseman, and an expiring contract on a non-playoff team and it’s expected he will not finish the season with the Seattle Kraken. He’ll play his 1000th game later this season and adds a pinch of offense to go with stellar defense.
Defensemen usually command a couple of picks, perhaps a second, third, or fourth. A Norris winner like Giordano may also require a prospect in the package with a high pick. Seattle GM Ron Francis hasn’t made a splash on the NHL trade market, but Giordano will likely be the first.
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are fading out of the playoff picture. Hertl is in the prime of his career but is unsigned for next season. Hello, king’s ransom. San Jose would undoubtedly like to keep the 28-year-old Hertl, but things have gone sour in San Jose since they tried to go all-in with defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. The Evander Kane situation also hangs over a franchise in transition, to say the least.
Hertl could easily fetch a top prospect and a top pick. That’s a lot to decline for a non-playoff team. In the wild card race, the Sharks are five points back of Edmonton and Colorado–two good teams. The playoffs don’t appear to be on the table, so what does San Jose do now? They can’t afford to lose a top center like Hertl for nothing, and they don’t need a rental.
Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars
Yes, Pavelski is 37-years-old but he’s proving right now that he’s still got game. The Dallas Stars are fading fast and Pavelski will be a top target at the March 21 NHL Trade Deadline if he hasn’t been dealt by then. He can play the wing or be the big-bodied pivot the Bruins can definitely use right now. He’ll bring grit and more leadership to an already strong leadership core and has played in two of the last six Stanley Cup Finals. Pavelski had 25 goals last season, has cracked the 20-goal plateau in seven of his last eight seasons, and had 38 goals and 64 points three seasons ago. He’s in the final season of a three-year contract that carries a $7 million cap hit.